Your guide to third trimester nutrition
By Annemarie Aburrow RD
By Annemarie Aburrow RD
You’re nearly there! As you begin the countdown to the birth of your precious newborn, you’ve come to the right place to get the low-down on your specific nutritional needs for the third trimester.
As in the previous trimesters, eating a healthy balanced diet is of great importance. A healthy diet includes all of the following:
Expect to gain around 1lb (½ kg) a week if you were a healthy weight pre-pregnancy (BMI 18.5 – 24.9). You should expect to put on ½ lb a week if you were obese pre-pregnancy. It’s really important not to gain too much weight, as it’s harder to lose it post-pregnancy, it could make labour more difficult, and it can affect the outcome and future health of your baby.
The best way to gain a healthy amount of weight is to eat healthy snacks when you’re hungry, and try to avoid eating too many foods and drinks high in fat and sugar. Continuing your physical activity routine during pregnancy will help you control your weight. If you’re not active, take up something new today! Start slowly and gradually increase to 30 minutes of moderate activity a day.
Not quite yet! You still need to take vitamin D supplements (10 micrograms per day) throughout your pregnancy and after birth if you’re planning to breastfeed. Vitamin D is found in pregnancy multi-vitamin supplements and Healthy Start Vitamins, or you may decide to take a single supplement containing vitamin D. Be sure to avoid all regular vitamins or cod liver oil supplements because they contain high levels of vitamin A which could be dangerous for your growing baby. You don’t need to take folic acid after week 12 if you’d prefer not to, but many women continue taking it in the form of pregnancy multivitamins or Healthy Start Vitamins.
If you already consume a healthy, well-balanced diet, all you need is the basic formula that contains the recommended 400mcg of folic acid and 10mcg of vitamin D. You can get it from Boots or Holland & Barrett. Also, it’s a great option if you’re on a budget!
For those of you who feel like you could use some additional help in the nutrition department, go for a more complete supplement such as UK’s bestselling prenatal formula Pregnacare Plus Omega-3. It contains a combination of 19 vitamins and minerals, including 400mcg of folic acid and 10mcg of vitamin D, plus fish oil capsules.
Another option is New Chapter Perfect Prenatal. It’s an organic, whole food supplement rich in high quality nutrients, including multivitamin complex and probiotic blend. Although quite expensive, the supplement is very highly rated on the other side of the Atlantic and you can buy it in the UK from Amazon or small online vitamin retailers.
You need to continue limiting and avoiding certain foods, including swordfish, shark and marlin, liver and liver products, paté, raw / undercooked meat, fish and eggs, unpasteurised cheeses and blue vein / mould-ripened cheeses. You should not eat more than two servings of oily fish a week, limit caffeine to 200mg a day and limit alcohol to 1-2 units once-twice a week. Don’t forget to wash all fruits and vegetables well. You can look forward to your dippy egg or brie sandwich after birth!
We still don’t understand exactly how labour starts, but there are some natural methods thought to bring labour on. Unfortunately, despite popular opinion, there is not enough evidence to recommend certain foods:
It’s a good idea to stock up the freezer before you go into labour. If you have the energy, cook up some meals in the advance and freeze them. Ask your friends to organise a meal rota for you after the birth. When it comes to labour itself, most women are encouraged to eat and drink during labour. You will be provided with hospital meals if you’re giving birth in hospital or a midwife-led unit. Pack any drinks you want for labour in your hospital bag, e.g. cola, lemonade, fruit juices. Pack any snacks you may need to keep you going, e.g. nuts, fruit, cereal bars. Remember to pack extra goodies to keep your birth partner going too!
For more information read our article on nutrition in labour.
Chief Medical Officers in the UK (2011) Vitamin D – advice on supplements for at risk groups (Accessed September 2013).
NHS Choices (2012) Indigestion and heartburn in pregnancy (Accessed September 2013).
Rasmussen KM, Catalano PM and Yaktine AL (2009) New guidelines for weight gain during pregnancy: what obstetricians/gynaecologists should know. Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol. 21(6):521-6.
Simpson et al (2001) Raspberry leaf tea in pregnancy; its safety and efficacy in labour. J Midwifery Womens Health. 46(2):51-9.
Webster-Gandy J, Madden A and Holdsworth M (2011) Oxford Handbook of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2nd Edition. Oxford University Press.